Alexandre Lacazette has not enjoyed the greatest season. But the criticism the Arsenal striker has faced as a result now sees him become underrated.
It has not been the most successful season for Arsenal centre-forward, Alexandre Lacazette. The Frenchman endured a two-month goal drought, still has not scored away from home, and saw his role in the starting XI questioned by large portions of the fanbase — he even lost it shortly before the recent hiatus to Eddie Nketiah.
This string of problems, including another ankle injury and clear crisis in confidence, and motivated wide-ranging and intense criticism. Scroll down Twitter during any match and you will see any number of supporters heavily criticising Lacazette’s every move, whether he deserves it or not.
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In fact, it has reached a point that Lacazette is now underrated. Those calling for Nketiah to start ahead of him have been caught up in the wild excitement of youth, while Gabriel Martinelli offers genuine competition but also does not have the same consistent hold-up impact as Lacazette, which is crucial in Mikel Arteta’s 4-2-3-1 system in which the centre-forward drops into midfield at times.
Lacazette’s performances have also not nearly been as detrimental as many would have you believe. His goalscoring has been problematic, admittedly, especially during the winter months when he missed several chances, but his overall performance level was still palatable, if not at the high level of recent matches and years. In fact, during this barren run of scoring, there were only two truly lacklustre performances, the 0-0 draw with Burnley and the 1-0 win over Olympiakos, in which he actually scored.
This season, Lacazette has created a chance from open play every 69 minutes. Only four players have created at a better rate than that, with Kieran Tierney leading the way with a chance created from open play every 62 minutes. In comparison, Aubameyang and Martinelli create a chance from open play every 104 minutes.
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Lacazette’s productivity rate has also not been utterly deplorable. He has averaged 0.68 non-penalty goals and assists per 90 minutes in the Premier League this season. That number is inflated somewhat by substitute performances against Newcastle United and West Ham in which he scored in both, but it still stacks up with the rest of his career.
Moreover, Lacazette has a non-penalty goal and assist rate of 0.7 per 90 over his Premier League career. By comparison, Aubameyang is at 0.78, Harry Kane is at 0.74, and Jamie Vardy is at 0.59. And all this is without mentioning that he was actually named Arsenal’s Player of the Season just a year ago.
Has Lacazette endured a difficult season? Yes. Should he be criticised for his poor performances? Yes, he should. But has that now gone too far, to the extent that he is underrated? Equally, yes. Lacazette is still a hugely valuable part of the Arsenal team.